Terms and Definitions

Accessibility is purposeful design and delivery of products so that all people can use them regardless of disability or ability. The ease of use should be equivalent for all people.

Instructional Accessibility is the process of intentionally creating educational content that removes barriers which prevent students from accessing content fully.

Social Model of Disability is a difference deriving from the interaction between an individual and society. The remedy for disability-related problems is a change in the interaction between the individual and society.

Disability Around the World

The United Nations

  • An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. This represents 16% of the world’s population, or 1 in 6 of us.
    1 in 6 people
  • Health inequities arise from unfair conditions faced by persons with disabilities, including stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and barriers faced in the health system itself.

Disability in the U.S.

US Census Data

  • Approximately 13.4% of the US population identifies as having a disability as of 2022
  • Of the population 16 and older, approximately 28.1% of people with a  disability are employed versus approximately 67.6% of people with no disability.
  • About half of the general population aged 25 to 44 is married, compared to just over one third of people with a disability.

US Department of Justice: 

  • Persons with disabilities were victims of 26% of all nonfatal violent crime, while accounting for about 12% of the population.
  • The rate of violent victimization against persons with disabilities (46.2 per 1,000 age 12 or older) was almost four times the rate for persons without disabilities (12.3 per 1,000).

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Adults aged 18 years and older with disabilities are less likely to have completed high school compared to their peers without disabilities (22.3% compared to 10.1%).
  • People with disabilities are more likely to have income of less than $15,000 compared to people without disabilities (22.3% compared to 7.3%).

Disability at MSU Denver

Only about 8.86% of MSU Denver students are registered for accommodations with the Access Center, well below the 13.4% and 16% estimates by the US Census and the UN. What could account for this disparity?

Each Accessibility Coordinator in the Access Center is responsible for, on average, about 373 students.

The 2021 MSU Denver Climate Survey:

  • Of respondents who identified as having a disability, those who strongly agreed or agreed that they feel welcome on campus:
  • About 48% of faculty
  • About 63% of staff
  • About 71% of students
  • Regarding “employees with a disability are well-represented on our shared governance committees/groups:”
  • Only about 20% of faculty and 27% of staff agree or strongly agree

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL is a framework to guide the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that focus on 3 principles for effective design:

  • Engagement, by providing options for:
    • Recruiting interest
    • Sustaining effort and persistence
    • Self-regulation
  • Representation, by providing options for:
    • Perception
    • Language and symbols
    • Comprehension
  • Action and Expression, by providing options for:
    • Physical action
    • Expression and Communication
    • Executive Functions
A participant at the MSU Denver STEM workshop for potential students who are blind or low-vision touches a geographic landform during the touch demonstration. Photo by Josh Geurink.

How you can help!

  • Honor intersectionality: ableism interlocks with other systems of oppression; it can’t be addressed in isolation
  • Educate yourself: learn about different disabilities and the different people who have led the disability movement.
  • Book recommendation: Disability Visibility (Alice Wong)
  • Adjust your language: much of our language marginalizes people with disability. Learn which terms are harmful and avoid them.
  • Be an ally: Remember that accessibility is a civil rights issue

Build accessibility into your courses!

It is much more efficient to build accessibility from the beginning of course design (as opposed to remediating later), so we encourage all faculty to work on making all new materials accessible, as well as going back and checking existing material as you have time.

Remember that Instructional Accessibility can help students access your course content regardless of any status of disclosure of disability.

Let the CTLD help you out!


We also have a digital copy of our Summary Handout and a digital copy of the UDL Guidelines available.